The Veterans Day program at Centre Elementary School was a solemn and emotional occasion.
Retired Major Dennis Burch of Lincolnville led the audience in a moment of silence to remember the 13 soldiers who were killed Nov. 5 at Ft. Hood, Texas, by a fellow soldier.
“I’m sorry and heartbroken,” he said. “It’s more tragic when it happens on American soil.”
Burch was a career soldier who served in the Air Force for 26 years. He earned numerous medals.
Burch introduced Private Ryan Newell of Marion, an active duty serviceman sidelined by extensive injuries from an improvised explosive device in Iraq.
Burch noted that America has been engaged in eight wars since 1914, not including many other conflicts and present operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He told students that although war is not glorious, glamorous, or fun to be in, he is proud to be a soldier.
“I thank God every day for my life and that I am an American,” he said. “We are blessed, and someone has to pay the price for the privileges we have.”
He said a soldier does not accept failure, never lets another soldier down, and can empathize with other soldiers in their pain.
Speaking directly to students, he said, “You must never forget the blood that was spent so you could be here today, and don’t forget to say, ‘thank you.’”
Enthusiastic elementary school students sang patriotic songs. A Centre High School vocal ensemble sang, “I’ll always be an American, and I’ll always cry American tears,” followed by “Let him live, bring him home,” from the musical “Les Miserables.”
Veterans in the audience were given special recognition, including two who served in the Air Force, six in the Army, and two in the Navy. Two others in attendance are active duty servicemen.
The program concluded with group singing of more patriotic songs including “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “God Bless America.”